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The End of an Era: Robert Parker Stops Reviewing California Wine

Most that follow the wine world closely, knew this day was going to come, but many, including myself would not have thought so soon. In an e-mail to subscribers today, Robert M. Parker, Jr. announced that he was handing over primary responsibility for reviewing California wines to his associate Antonio Galloni. Parker will continue to conduct vertical and other special tastings of California wine, but the regular critical coverage has been ceded to Galloni.

I first learned of this announcement this morning on a site called the Wine Cellar Insider, run by a gentleman by the name of Jeff Leve, a friend of Parker's, a wine collector and long time participant on the eRobertparker.Com bulletin board.

A little asking around got me a copy of the e-mail sent to subscribers of the Wine Advocate:

"Dear eRobertParker.com Subscriber:

I am thrilled to announce that Antonio Galloni will have expanded responsibilities for The Wine Advocate and http://www.eRobertParker.com as of February 1, 2011. I would like to take credit for my powers of persuasion over recent years in trying to convince Antonio of the virtues of covering additional wine regions, but if truth be known, the writing was always on the wall that his enviable talents and passion for this field would ultimately prevail, and the beneficiaries are the world's wine consumers.

Antonio will continue to focus on the wines of Italy as well as Champagne, but two new areas of responsibility for Antonio will include the red and white Burgundies of the Côte d'Or as well as the crisp white wines of Chablis, and the wines of California. These vast regions will benefit from the increased depth of coverage, as will all the major wine regions of the world.

Additionally, sectors that merit dramatically more attention but have not had sufficient coverage, including Beaujolais and the Mâconnais (now economically as important as the Cote d'Or and Chablis) will be put under a microscope by David Schildknecht, who will continue with his other areas of responsibility but will be freed from covering the Cote d'Or and Chablis.

I will turn to something I have long played around with in The Wine Advocate but have rarely had enough time to do. Older readers may remember the vintage retrospectives called "What About Now?" With Antonio turning his attention to California, I am going to begin a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing. It has been a long-term ambition of mine to include more reports on older vintages, and this change will allow me to do this not only in California, but also to increase the older vintage reports for Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.

In all other respects, the staff assignments at The Wine Advocate remain identical. I hope all of you share our great enthusiasm for the fact that Antonio Galloni has finally taken the plunge and will be devoting most of his time to his wine writing career, a job for which he seems particularly well-suited and sure to excel.

All the best in wine and life,
Robert M. Parker, Jr.

P.S. The Wine Advocate writer assignments are:

Robert Parker - Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines
Antonio Galloni - Italy, Champagne, Chablis, Côte d'Or, California
David Schildknecht - Germany, Loire, Beaujolais and Mâconnais, Eastern U.S., Austria,
Eastern Europe, Languedoc-Roussillon, Jura
Jay Miller - Oregon, Washington, South America, Spain
Lisa Perrotti - Brown - Australia, New Zealand
Neal Martin - Critic-at-Large overlapping all areas, plus specific reviewer of South Africa
Mark Squires - Bulletin Board supervision and occasional articles on Israel, Portugal, and Greece

My friend Elin McCoy recently penned an article in The World of Fine Wine magazine entitled "The Twilight of the Emperor," the title of which captures elegantly the clearly waning power (and impending retirement) of Robert Parker as America's foremost wine critic. Clearly Parker intends to continue working, and his coverage of Bordeaux and the Rhone will continue to be among the most authoritative around, but the announcement of full retirement seems that much closer, and it seems much clearer that if there was an anointed replacement it will be Antonio Galloni.

Many will dismiss this event as non-news, and might suggest (with some degree of truth) that Parker has been fading in influence for some time. Yet, the weight that a 95 point Wine Advocate score from Parker on top California wines has not lessened in its value or importance.

Interestingly, at least as far as my experience has shown, Galloni's palate seems to favor less intense ripeness than Parker's, and seems to be more favorably (than Parker) disposed to wines that lean more towards the idiosyncratic. The question arises, then, whether or not we will see a shift in the scoring of California wines now that they are Under New Management at the Wine Advocate. In the most extreme case, we could be looking at a shakeup of the longstanding hierarchy of California cult bottlings.

As if handling California weren't enough, Galloni now has to handle all the top wines of Burgundy as well as his existing coverage of Italy and Champagne, which will be a herculean task if there ever was one. I wish him well.

Watching the unraveling of the ParkTator critical hegemony in this country has been fascinating sport, and it's clear we're in the midst of very interesting times when it comes to American wine criticism.

What do you think?

Comments (27)

02.05.11 at 3:49 PM

Considering that I adhere to the increasingly popular anti-one-man-dictate philosophy of wine enjoyment, this is very welcome news.

Whether Galloni's palate is different from Parker's, closer to mine, or more geared towards elegance is secondary. The main thing I retain from this story is that the "Parker" name will no longer cast its shadow over (a larger part of)the wine industry. I just don't believe that "Galloni" or "Wine Advocate" hold the same recognition among consumers.

I can only hope that people will start forgetting about points, and start building their own relationship with wine. Here's wishing that 2011 brings about a collective awakening where wine lovers get excited about adventure and the unknown, rather than blindly following shopping list recommendations by a single Man.

Chris Lopez wrote:
02.05.11 at 4:27 PM

@ vimpressionniste - with regard to your comment "I just don't believe that "Galloni" or "Wine Advocate" hold the same recognition among consumers." Many retailers represent any review or score coming from the Wine Advocate as coming from Parker himself. I believe that it will take a LONG time before the general wine drinking public will know that it is Galloni and not Parker.

Martin Silva wrote:
02.05.11 at 4:40 PM

I agree with vimpressionniste. This is very welcome news. Few wine critics have such power and name recognition. This is good news for winemakers who don't want to cater to a single palette.

Chris Lopez is right, The Wine Advocate is synonymous with Parker. I was surprised myself when I read the long list of other writers!

02.06.11 at 3:25 AM

Yes, it is an important point vimpressionniste - that is what a mature wine world needs - "people will start forgetting about points, and start building their own relationship with wine"
Wine is such a subjective think, everyone ha sa different taste.
Although, you can tell if the wine is really bad and there are some like that on which a vast majority of people would agree. On the other hand the rest of wines - lets say those-worth rating need to be elevated so the consumer can get a better orientation in the complex offer of wines on various markets. But thinking that a 98 point wine will surely please my palette where 82 is probably much worse is a nonsense.

Perhaps, what wine drinkers need is to free their mind of prejudice and embrace their own taste - and the wine makers should acknowledge that if they are putting a huge effort in making their wines the best they can, there always will be many palates enjoying their effort in the bottle - therefore they will have many devoted consumers spreading the word of mouth across the internet - the best tool for wine enthusiasts nowadays - the more sources, the more different tastes, the more informed final evaluation of wine!
Do you agree?

02.06.11 at 8:09 AM

I completely agree Radka! For me, the job of a good wine writer is two-fold:

1. Educate wine lovers so that they are more aware of what they are drinking. It's a complex topic and learning is half the fun.

2. Spread the word on wines that are worth trying, or the wines that people are talking about, so that we may go out and try to form our own opinion. This is where blogs like Vinography really come in handy for me.

Sean Spratt wrote:
02.06.11 at 1:03 PM

@ Chris Lopez....I agree fully, a Wine Advocate score is a "Parker" score. As far as I can tell this is intentional by Parker and TWA to leverage his brand name and validity. So for the foreseeable future, the vast consuming/buying public that goes by the 'brand name' of Parker will not be effected by the transition from RJP to Galloni. I do think it will be interesting to see how Galloni scores show up in comparison to previous 'true' Parker scores.

I also have long wondered if, behind the scenes, The Wine Advocate engages in grade/score 'norming' - a common practice by many institutes to ensure a consistency of grading/scoring (commonplace practice in Universities for example). If that is the case, you might see little difference with Galloni helming California.

One thing I know for sure...that is a breathtaking list of regions and wines he is covering! Seem like too much for one person...

02.06.11 at 1:58 PM

Interesting to see if/how California winemakers will react. Can't wait to read Elin's article. I don't believe the magazine is available in my area, but note that the article is available for download at the magazine's website.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
02.06.11 at 2:05 PM


Thanks for the comments. I think Jay "100 Points" Miller pretty much put the idea of score normalization to rest as mere theory. His scores were so much higher than the rest of the folks there that it led to most people completely writing off the Wine Advocate scores for Spain, Australia, and South America.

Sean Spratt wrote:
02.06.11 at 3:34 PM

Alder...good point re: Jay Miller. I had forgotten about that. I don't have a fixed opinion on normalization for wine scores. I can certainly see the pros and cons of it.

Timothy M Steer wrote:
02.07.11 at 12:17 AM

As an ex cop, and a newcomer to 'the market' I am 'troubled' (cautious) that one individual can hold so much influence - surely a team of experts should be be guiding us all ?

Evan Dawson wrote:
02.07.11 at 5:41 AM


Strong analysis, though I hope you can elaborate on one point. I have heard many say that AG is more likely to celebrate wines of place, comparatively lighter wines, or idiosyncratic wines. I don't read the Advocate, but I come across Antonio's reviews with regularity, and I don't particularly notice much difference. Can you point out an example or two?

Building upon that, I fear that even if Antonio weren't so fired up with glycerine and syrup in wines, he'd move marginally in that direction. After all, Parker is bestowing serious power and I'd guess there are expectations. He doesn't expect his successor to make him look silly.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
02.07.11 at 7:34 AM


Thanks for the comments. Galloni's ratings for the "Natural" wines of Tenute Dettori are a good example. I wouldn't have expected parker to give 95 points to a completely unsulfured wacko wine like this. Galloni gives Gravner and Radikon's wines 91-94 points, and he's even awarded some (gasp!) rosés in the low 90s. My feeling is that his tastes are wider and more diverse, perhaps in keeping with the diversity of Italy, which was his proving ground.

Evan Dawson wrote:
02.07.11 at 7:37 AM

Thanks, Alder. I don't know Antonio, but all I hear is: Great guy, hard worker, strong palate. I appreciate your help with some of the more, say, esoteric wines that might not be so celebrated by Robert Parker.

It will be fascinating to watch the transition.

Bill McIver wrote:
02.07.11 at 10:28 AM

Sandra McIver, founder of Matanzas Creek Winery, when told, said, "Well that's a slap in the face for California."

02.07.11 at 11:43 AM


With so many strong voices reviewing CA wine and having big influence including the recognized names like Heimoff and Laube, I don't see CA wine suffering much.

And even before Parker retired, wine commentary had become much broader in scope because of the blogosphere. And the newsletter space is not exactly empty with Tanzer, Connoisseurs' Guide, California Grapevine and Dan Berger all engaging in reviews and having a fairly significant combined influence for CA sales.

Competition in the marketplace is always a good idea, and increased competition among those who offer words and thoughts will be beneficial across the board in my view.

Alexander wrote:
02.07.11 at 12:59 PM

I am excited about the switch. Galloni is well respected and a wonderful judge of talent-by-the-glass. I agree that he might be overwhelmed by adding the Golden State to his already enormous tasting roster but he will be up to the task.

No affiliation with Galloni but have heard only good things about the man (via WLTV and other sources) and read wonderful reviews by him too. Embracing it.

Thank you for the heads up!

02.07.11 at 3:44 PM

I must say that I am eagerly looking forward to this new change in "power" figures. Robert Parker's reviews are well respected for very good reason; however, change is good. I'm sure some of the "cult" wineries, as you refer to them, are awaiting this change with some wariness. I can't wait to see what Galloni puts on the table.

02.07.11 at 4:26 PM

The consumers' problem is that most claims to fine wine quality can be falsified by blind tasting against a dozen benchmarks. Enter Robert Parker in 1985: He relates to the governance of fine wine prices; he defines expectations for consumers, grants power to brands, and verifies our performance claims over time. He developed a fantastic quality model, based on the great wine ratings of Europe which were built before marketing. It is not so much whether we wine professionals approve as that consumers are nodes in the 100-point network. Today, it is important because of the commoditization of Napa Valley (and all other New World) Cabernet Sauvignon is causing the price to slide. Napa wines with 100-point scores have higher prices; as such are not commodities. Economically, Robert Parker helps us to fight commoditization. Fairly warned, we should fear a return to the chaos of the 1950 through 1980 period, a world without classification. What are we going to see next? Business to business I tell customers; that I would classify the Napa AVAs, in a long range effort to take advantage of the price supports built using Robert Parker's 100-point scores. Yet Americans are allergic to governance when it comes to money. — Leo McCloskey, President, Enologix®

Jeff V. wrote:
02.08.11 at 12:58 AM

Wow, Leo, you've posted this same comment on other blogs. Defensive?

02.08.11 at 8:26 AM

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new, / And God fulfils himself in many ways…”

More than any other wine, the price of Lafite 1982 was a test of both the market and the Parker brand. If the price had declined after he recalibrated his score, it would have reinforced his position as probably the most influential critic ever—the man that didn’t just call the market but made it. Even Warren Buffett cannot do that. But it continued to increase in price, which was surely indicative of Parker’s influence waning.

Despite notably poor ratings from Parker, the 2002 vintages of the First Growths have, according to Liv-ex, increased in value by more than 800% since their release in 2003. Relatively low Parker scores have not at all affected the insatiable demand for Carruades.

Parker is still hugely influential, though he is obviously slowing down and reducing his workload. Will there be somebody to take his place? I think not. The zeitgeist is for the power of vox populi—that is, blogs and forums—and the brand. The influence of all professional wine journalism is gradually being eroded!

02.08.11 at 8:37 AM

And, Leo, I am not going to go chasing you around the Internet, but it would help if you had your facts straight.

Robert Parker started writing in 1978, and his early review of the 1982 Bdx propelled him to prominence. Indeed, if Parker had not turned himself into the world's leading authority on Bdx early on, he might not have ever gained the fame that he did.

Secondly, the notion that there was chaos in the wine world before Parker started writing is patent nonsense unless, of course, by chaos, you mean that there was no one monolithic voice to whom all the world bowed down. Instead, just going back to 1970, I would suggest the Robert Finnigan had a strong leadership position and he was joined by lots of others.

I think Blake Gray said it best over on his blog, The Gray Market Report, "My first thought on learning that Robert Parker will no longer review California wines was, what's Enologix going to do?"

Jay wrote:
02.08.11 at 3:05 PM

Mr. Adler,

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed your synopsis of ZAP. Are you planning on the same for 2011.

Thanks in advance for your response.


Dan Ganshirt wrote:
02.08.11 at 10:10 PM

Excellent job on this piece. You took big news and put your touch on it in a simple straight forward way. Good coverage of big news. Well done!

02.10.11 at 8:10 AM

I am looking forward to changes in California wines as a result of this. For better or worse, WA scores are still very important to wineries. I don't think it will matter whether it's Parker or Galloni giving them - the tags at Costco will just say Wine Advocate. Frankly, I am skeptical that Galloni will really push toward less souped-up wines in Cali, but we'll see. Here is to higher acid and less jam!

Marty Ross wrote:
08.19.14 at 9:48 PM

One must remember that Parker calling the 1982 vintage a great one when everybody else dismissed it is the flash point for Parker and for his amazing rise....he grew up with the baby boomers and learned a great deal from him.... And from there is where we learned about The Wine Spectator and a host of other reviewers... My personal downfall with Parker was that I would invest in his 99 100 pointers and drink his 91-93 pointers....I am glad his monarchy is over ...hopefully wineries will begin to make wines not for a single mans taste. It sounds to me like he is going to enjoy old wines and see how his original scores measure up ? Sucks to be Robert Parker!

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